Facebook Friends: How Many Is Too Many?

Those who log in to Facebook on a regular basis, like me, would agree that different types of users exist. Some of us would not fail to post an update every few hours, sharing the tiniest of details of our lives with our network of friends. Others tend to be less obsessed with that, choosing instead to maintain a low profile while observing postings from our peers on our newsfeed. We can even categorize these users in terms of the types of updates they tend to post, such as complaints about life or work, philosophical musings, photos, etc.

Regardless of the difference in usage, the basis of using Facebook is still for sharing information. We’ve seen users who have more than a thousand ‘friends’ in their account but we all know that not all of these friends are equal. For starters, for some of the updates you post, you’ll only wish that the posts are seen by a select few. Unless you diligently tweak your privacy settings, most of your ‘friends’ will see the majority of your postings, and vice versa. This raises the question: is having more friends on Facebook a good thing?

Fulfilling Social Needs

Usually, we would associate a ‘small community’ with a tight-knit group of people whom we are close with – family members and friends who we interact with on a regular, if not daily, basis. When it comes to a ‘large community’, the sense of kinship is lost in the midst of the multiple layers of network. This is where cliques start to form, but the in-group ties within these cliques can become so strong that people who don’t belong to the group are treated as outsiders.

The same analogy can be applied to the ‘relationships’ on Facebook. Technically, the more ‘friends’ we have, the fewer our interactions are with most of them. You usually end up having only a few ‘friends’ who would regularly comment on your posts or interact with you. More likely than not, these few are also your close friends offline.

The rest of your ‘friends’ on Facebook are obsolete, irrelevant, disconnected, and just random receivers of your updates. You’ll get updates from them as well, but you’d probably treat these indifferently or treat them as pet peeves, the same way they treat your status updates.

facebook friends (Image credit: Mashable)

As a matter of fact, having fewer ‘friends’ on your list may be better, simply because the worth of your interaction with them will be more valuable. Having access to their updates is not enough, it’s the interaction that we eagerly crave. As it is with the offline world, we hang out with the people we are most comfortable with. The online world is not that much more different.

Sharing at the cost of Privacy

Do not underestimate the power of gossip in social networks. Nothing spreads news faster through the grapevine than word-of-mouth. The issue here is the sharing of your information to people whom you don’t even know. The problem comes when your info spreads to the friends of your friends. When you post complaints about work or study, or worse still about your business clients, eventually one of these gripes may get you into trouble when they accidentally spread to the ears of the people you were complaining about. The more ‘friends’ you have, the easier a connection can be made. The loss of your privacy through such voluntary sharing actually makes your position all the more vulnerable and you can’t do anything about it!

facebook privacy (Image credit: SteveWeigl)

If you exercised more restraint in the selection of your ‘friends’ on Facebook, then these updates will have less bearing on your reputation. Or you can always choose the alternative and just not post anything bad about anyone on Facebook.

Free flow of Information

The networking service which Facebook provides not only applies to friends per se, but also to acquaintances. The exchange of information between you and the rest of your ‘friends’ in the network is precisely what makes Facebook valuable. Just as you how you filter the news in the papers on any day, you can also filter out and read only what captures your attention on the newsfeed. The important thing is, the updates from all your peers are there; the more ‘friends’ you add, the more information you would receive.

facebook updates (Image credit: Nutshellmail)

From this point of view, having more ‘friends’ would benefit the one who reads the newsfeed, more than the one who shares updates. As for the sharer, the advantage is that he or she gets to influence more people with their updates. In fact, this is what fan pages are for. The aim is to gather as many fans as possible to provide the information that fans wish to know and keep updated on. Nevertheless, there are always certain private details of your life which you’d prefer to share with only a select group of friends or family.

Quality over Quantity, Anyone?

After reading the above, you may have uncovered the relevance of the type of friends you have on Facebook to what it is that you hope to get from the giant social network. If it is to keep yourself informed of the latest buzz among your peers, quantity matters more. The same applies to users who want to spread certain messages through the network. However, if maintaining social ties with your existing friends and family is more important to you, then the fewer the number of friends you have, the better the quality of interaction. You don’t have to accept every single friend request you receive, especially when they come from random strangers or people you have only spoken once to or have no reason to interact with ever again.

fb friends quality vs quantity (Image credit: Ezatkamel)

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